Grosjean, Bird and Bianchi discuss the race
GP2 Series: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference for today's feature race here in Istanbul. Joining us today we have race winner Romain Grosjean from Dams, in second place we have Sam Bird from iSport, and in third place we have Jules Bianchi from ART Grand Prix. Romain, congratulations on a great win, and a good start to the season: how was it for you today?
It was a very interesting race! I think nobody knew what to expect for the tyre degradation during the race, and there were different strategies, which were interesting for the show: Sam decided to change four wheels, and we decided to change only the rear.
We had a nice fight for the last few laps so it was interesting, quite difficult to manage, but it's these type of races where you learn the most and you improve yourself.
Looking back I think this strategy was more safe, but we had a really nice fight and I was thinking he was pushing really hard up to the pit, and I was controlling the race and I was pushing a bit as well, but he was still faster with four new tyres! We had a nice fight for the last few laps so it was interesting, quite difficult to manage, but it's these type of races where you learn the most and you improve yourself.
GP2 Series: How hard was it to control? Sam was closing fast at the end, but there were a lot of marbles on the track, so how hard was it considering this?
Romain: After the pit the car was pretty good, I was trying to be careful, and then I saw he was closing a lot more than I was expecting! I had to push a bit, and basically my front right tyre was completely destroyed: we saw some drivers who had to pit twice because they destroyed the front tyres, and basically we were not expecting this so we have to learn from our mistake. We could keep the lead to the end, and it was quite interesting for me because I had to think about my driving style to find the best way to keep ahead of Sam!
GP2 Series: You and Sam were a long way ahead of everyone else, running 3 seconds a lap faster for much of the end of the race: what do you put this down to?
Romain: Because of him: if he would have slowed down, I would have slowed down as well! [laughs] We had a good car, and iSport did a great job as well, and I know we're not going to be that far from everybody every time so we still have to work, to analyse, and keep going this way: this will be the best way to achieve our goals.
GP2 Series: And of course, it's a great way to start that for the season.
GP2 Series: Congratulations. Sam, congratulations on an amazing drive today, so close but so far, just 0.3 seconds apart at the line...
Romain: That's for the show! [laughs]
GP2 Series: Thanks, we appreciate it! [laughs] How did it feel inside the car?
Yeah, most importantly it's a good way to start the year, isn't it: I think the 2 guys to the left of me were coming into this one thinking right, we're supposedly some of the quickest drivers, or the guys people talk about, let's just get some points on the board, and we've been able to do that today. We did that, and I was able to get the fastest lap as well, which is good, and the team have done an awesome job, I must say: we didn't have a great Asia, but so far in Europe we've been very strong, which is good. The tactics that we had today were correct, and it was good fun as well: me and Romain were pushing like mad, as you could tell, and his car was moving about in the last six laps, and he obviously thought 'oh crap, he's quite quick, let's get a move on!' [laughs] It was a lot of fun, and he made a little mistake on the last lap and I kind of thought I'd have a go, and there was some traffic as well ... I just really enjoyed today. It was a really good, fun race, and credit to Dams and to ART as well for coming out and making a car, and credit to my team as well, and credit to Pirelli for making a tyre that produced, in my opinion, one of the best races that I've been involved in since I've been in GP2. I think it's been a good way to open 2011 for GP2, really!
GP2 Series: Let's talk about Pirelli. As Romain noted, he changed two tyres and you changed four: which was the right strategy?
Who knows if I could have got past Romain, but maybe it would have been even closer at the last few laps.
Sam: I think mine was the right strategy, but I overcooked my pitstop position by about half a metre, which cost me about two seconds in the pitstop: Romain came out about 7.5 seconds in the lead, and he was only about 4 seconds down the road when we pitted, so if I hadn't have done that maybe it would have been a bit closer a bit earlier, when my tyres were a bit fresher. But who knows: all I know is it's a good way to start the year. But there is a lot of degradation out there: did you guys [looks at Romain and Jules] see the marbles on the exit to turn eight? [laughs] You really don't want to be going off line! Wow!
GP2 Series: That was the big issue for discussion before the race , what would happen off line: with four new tyres to two, if you hadn't had the pit problem, do you think it would have been possible to go off line and overtake him?
Sam: Who knows if I could have got past Romain, but maybe it would have been even closer at the last few laps: instead of me getting there in the last 3 laps maybe I would have got there in the last 6 laps, and then it could have been really interesting. But getting behind is one thing, getting past is another, because he's not a bad pedaller! [laughs]
GP2 Series: Yeah, he's fast [laughs]. But a great start for you and the team, and something to build on.
Sam: Yeah, absolutely: a great start for me, a great start for the team, and while hopefully we're going to be up there it's not only going to swap and change between us three, there are a lot of drivers out there who are going to be extremely competitive, and the gap that was there between the top two and the rest will not happen at all the tracks. It's going to be a tough championship this year, there's a real depth, so I wouldn't expect the top two to do this too often.
GP2 Series: Great job today. Jules, congratulations on P3 today, albeit having to fight your way back up: how was it for you?
It was not easy! I did a normal start but Clos did a really good one, and then I tried to overtake him and did a mistake in corner 12, and Filippi overtook me at corner one. The first set was not really good for me, I had a bit of oversteer, but anyway we were
P5 so it wasn't too bad. I wanted to have some points for this race but after the pits I did a mistake and put on the anti-stall 2 times, so I came out around Kral and Coletti I think so I had to overtake them. I used my tyres a bit too much on this first lap, so it was not an easy race: I did some good moves but anyway we finished third, so it's a good way to start the championship.
GP2 Series: You were one of the guys who could overtake in the second half of the race: how hard was it to get past van der Garde and Clos?
Jules: It was not easy, for sure, but it was easier because I had four tyres and I think they only did two...
Sam: Four for van der Garde.
Jules: Four? So anyway the marbles were not really a problem for me, but there was a lot of marbles on corner eight and then on the straight it was okay so I could overtake easily, no problem with that.
GP2 Series: A good recovery drive to a podium: happy with the job today?
Jules: Yeah, I'm happy: yesterday I think we could have done better, we had the pace to do that but we had some trouble, but anyway the team did a really good job because in Imola and Abu Dhabi we were suffering a bit in qualifying because we were not quick enough, so we've improved a lot. And also for the race, so I'm quite happy, but we still have to work hard to catch the two other drivers: it won't be easy this season.